State Visits

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to the US for an official state visit from June 21 to 24, where he will be hosted by US President Joe Biden at the White House.
  • This will be his first state visit to the US during his nine-year long reign as prime minister.
What are State Visits?
  • State visits are visits to foreign countries led by a head of state/government, acting in their sovereign capacity.
  • They are, therefore, officially described as a “visit of [name of state]” rather than “visit of [name of leader]”.
  • State visits to the US only occur on the invitation of the President of the United States, acting in their capacity as the head of state.
  • Every visit by a foreign leader is not a state visit.
  • State visits are the highest-ranked category of foreign visits with great ceremonial importance and are considered to be the highest expression of friendly bilateral relations.
  • In the US, these ceremonies include,
    1. A flight line ceremony (where the visiting head of state is greeted at the tarmac after landing)
    2. A 21-gun salute White House arrival ceremony
    3. A White House dinner
    4. Exchange of diplomatic gifts
    5. An invitation to stay at the Blair House (the US President’s guesthouse across the Pennsylvania Avenue)
    6. Flag streetlining.
Other types of visits:
  • Less important visits are classified (in descending order of magnitude, according to US diplomatic policy) as official visits, official working visits, working visits, guest-of-government visits, and private visits.
  • Each of these visits have different protocols to be followed.
Major difference between these visits and a state visit:
State visits  Other visits 
  • State visits are made in sovereign capacity with only the head of state (head of government in case of parliamentary democracies due to the ceremonial nature of their heads of state) allowed to make the visits.
  • Other visits can be made by a number of other important leaders including crown princes, vice-presidents, ceremonial heads of state, etc
 Are state visits more important?
  • While officially and ceremonially, state visits are the most prestigious, for actual diplomatic work, the classification of the visit makes little difference.
  • Working visits can accomplish just as much in fostering a healthy relationship with another country as state visits.
  • In fact, given the rarity of state visits and the ceremonial functions they bring with them, most work actually gets done in other visits.
Source: Indian Express

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